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More on yesterday’s flurry of roster moves

Mar 26, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — Matt Williams hinted yesterday morning that he planned to make some cuts after the day’s exhibition game against the Mets. Little could anyone have guessed just how many cuts the Nationals manager would make, nor how surprising some of the moves (and their domino effects) would be.

Having had some time now to process it all, here are some more thoughts about everything that transpired, and what it means moving forward…

— Easily the most surprising development was the removal of both Tyler Moore and Jamey Carroll from the mix for the final spot on the Nationals’ bench. But in thinking about that battle over the last week or so, it had become difficult to make a strong case for either player. Not because neither was deserving of a spot on the Opening Day roster, but because it was pretty obvious whoever won that job would barely get an opportunity to play, if any opportunity at all.

With Ryan Zimmerman now ready to serve as Adam LaRoche’s backup at first base, with Danny Espinosa clearly the club’s choice to be the backup middle infielder, and with both Nate McLouth and Scott Hairston backing up in the outfield, there was just no way Moore or Carroll would have been used as anything more than pinch-hitting specialists. Which neither really is. Moore needs more regular at-bats to stay sharp, so his demotion to Class AAA Syracuse makes sense. If and when the need arises in Washington, you want him already to be comfortable at the plate, not still working to get his swing down. Carroll, meanwhile, would have been a wonderful influence in the clubhouse, but what tangible, on-field role would he have held at this point?

— So that leaves two really surprising names left competing to be the Nationals’ 25th man: Jeff Kobernus and Sandy Leon. What kind of odds would you have gotten on that back on Feb. 13? Kobernus obviously would bring blazing speed to the table and would be an ideal pinch-runner late in games for LaRoche or Wilson Ramos. Leon, as the third catcher, would almost certainly never get a chance to play, but his presence would give Williams the peace of mind to use Ramos or Jose Lobaton as a pinch-hitter in key spots. It would be an unconventional decision, to say the least, but there is some rationale to it.

— Having said all that, I’m not convinced the Nationals aren’t still going to acquire another player to take that final spot on the bench. A host of available players have flooded the open market in the last few days, and more will be added to the list in the next day or two as clubs make their final cuts. There already has been speculation about Kevin Frandsen, released by the Phillies yesterday, and he certainly would make sense for the Nats. If they were going to add another position player, you’d think they would want a veteran, right-handed corner infielder. Whether they can actually acquire someone who fits that description remains to be seen, but I’m fairly certain they’re actively looking around.

— With Ryan Mattheus and Xavier Cedeno optioned to Syracuse and Michael Gonzalez released, the final spot in the Opening Day bullpen officially goes to Aaron Barrett. It’s a great story of perseverance for the 26-year-old right-hander, who nearly gave up baseball a couple years ago when he developed the yips but wound up dominating as Class AA Harrisburg’s closer last season. Barrett outperformed every other reliever in camp, tossing 9 2/3 scoreless innings, so he certainly earned the roster spot. But there’s no guarantee he’s completely ready for what lies ahead. The leap from Class AA to the majors is a huge one, and Barrett is going to be facing much tougher hitters now than he did in the late innings of Grapefruit League games over the last month. It’ll be fascinating to see how he performs, though, and it’s impossible not to be excited for the guy.

— So, the full, 7-man bullpen will be: Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Jerry Blevins and Barrett. Not exactly how anyone drew it up before camp opened, but there’s some real potential for this to be a dominant bullpen, top to bottom.

— It was somewhat surprising that Tanner Roark’s only chance of making the roster is as the No. 5 starter, not as a reliever as had been speculated all along. Williams made it clear yesterday, though, that the loser of the Roark/Taylor Jordan battle will be sent to Syracuse. And there’s still no resolution to that battle, with club officials seeing merits to either right-hander. As has been said all along, there won’t be a decision made until the Nationals are absolutely confident Doug Fister is ready to open the season on-time. Fister will throw 60-to-65 pitches in a minor-league game Thursday afternoon, so it would seem the Roark/Jordan decision won’t be made before that outing takes place.

  1. 3on2out - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:40 AM

    Nevertheless, I’m sad to see Jamey kicked to the curb. I remember the remarkable first year at RFK and Jamey being part of that over -achieving team. 19 games over .500 at the turn!

    I wish Mr. Carroll well and hope he finds a home as a 40 year old and he can cap off a remarkable and unconvential career.

    • natsfan1a - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:40 AM

      Agreed, 3on. That was some ride!

      I also wish Jamey well. As noted in a prior thread: Thanks for the memories! We’ll always have RFK. :-)

    • chaz11963 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:42 AM

      Totally agree. Hate to see Carroll go, I really thought he would have been a perfect addition to the bench given his history with the team his veteran presence, and his pinch hitting ability.

      • nats106 - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        +10 or more. You don’t see too many players appreciate where they are and what it took to get there like Carroll. My kids have about 12 Jamey Carroll autographs from that first season. Why? Seems that only he, John Patterson and Chad Cordero routinely signed before games. Maybe I missed some other players, but he seemed to take real joy in making an 8 year old kid happy.

    • Sonny G 10 - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Agreed, 3on. Jamey is a class act all around. Hope some other team gives him one last chance.

  2. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    Hope Roark gets to be #5!

    • Eric - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:25 AM

      +1!

  3. Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    Mark, do you see Frandsen as being worth $900,000 for the year? He’s guaranteed that if he accepts assignment from the Phillies. That’s a lot for a guy that had a crappy spring and only. hit .234 last year. One other positive though is that he doesn’t strike out very often.

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      Kilgore says this morning that Frandsen is refusing to go to AAA, thus forfeiting the 900K. He must feel pretty secure that he’ll do better.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        It’s a gamble on his part to refuse à job and players his age and his service time could be more focused on getting those MLB days that qualify him for his age 45 and 50 pensions. Frandsen has never made the big money and could be smart enough to see what lies in front of him which is future High School coach or batting cage instructor and that’s the reality unless you stay in coaching or scouting or have a real career path.

        Every year Frandsen can stay in the show vs AAA is probably his goal. This could be his last chance to show he can be an effective bench player.

        Ghost sees him as an effective bat against Lefties. His 2012 stats were great then last year couldn’t hit Righties which is why the Phoolies aren’t putting him on the bench. Did the league figure him out last year with Righty pitchers and can he bounce back. Change of scenery could also help.

    • knoxvillenat - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Well is Hairston really worth $2.5 million??? The way major league salaries are these days $900K is chump change.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        Exactly, $400K above Rookie minimum.

      • pdowdy83 - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        The Cubs are contributing $500k towards Hairston’s salary this year so he is only gettin $2mm of the Nationals payroll.

    • pdowdy83 - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      Frandsen hits lefties well and can handle multiple positions. He also had a low babip last year of .245. It was .120 points lower than his 2012 babip. I would expect something closer to .280-.290 for his babip would would put him as roughly a .265 hitter. Not the best but should be an acceptable bench player.

  4. Theophilus T.S. - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    One question not answered by this roster is who will be the DH in the 12 interleague games. Williams has definitely turned 180 degrees from Johnson’s preference for hairy-chested goons. Unless its Ramos the Nats could be disadvantaged in those matchups.

    I really hope they don’t pick up someone else’s garbage. One of my beefs with Rizzo has been the organization’s unwillingness to let their internal options take their final developmental steps at the major league level. They’re paying $2.5 million for someone else’s mistake and taking on $900K for Fransden just ossifies the roster — at least for a few months.

    • sjm308 - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:16 AM

      Theo – I think I answered those questions about dh with the addition of Leon. Its outside the box to be sure but you would give Ramos another 50 at bats there and also have him as your primary pinch hitter on days that Lobaton starts which gives you even more flexibility. Hard to think of flexibility when you are talking 3 catchers but I think its there. Might be a disadvantage to Leon who would get very little work and I can see them not taking that route but the reality is, if you give one of your best hitters an opportunity to bat 60 more times in a season it certainly beats having a Matt Stairs or Chad Tracey coming up in those situations. Hell, it beats having Hairston or Espinosa as well.

      Go Nats!!

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:24 AM

        i wonder if Leon isn’t still here primarily as another body to help catch the pitchers in the last week of ST?

    • habs3 - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      I think you are spot on with your observation. Tampa has no problem introducing homegrown talent to the majors nor do several other teams. We have players just as good as Hairston in the minors.

  5. Jeff - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    Frandsen was viewed by matty from his
    Arizona perspective not the post career days in SF before AZ matty days?

  6. Hiram Hover - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Great observations, Mark, tho a couple of things surprise me:

    1. Zim is “now ready” to start 10-15+ games at 1B? Really? After 2 innings at the position in ST?

    2. If ZIm is ready to back up ALR at 1B and that’s why they cut Carroll and Moore, why would they think about adding Fransden, who would fill many of the same roles?

  7. flnatsfan - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    Mark, what about the second base competition? I mean, I know we’ve assumed all along that Rendon was the starter and Espinosa the backup, but is that official?

  8. chaz11963 - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Frandsen could be the answer. From Kilgore in today’s WaPost: “Frandsen, a right-handed hitter, batted .280/.333/.389 with seven home runs over the past two seasons with the Phillies. He played first base, second base and third base. The Nationals value his ability to play both corner infield spots and his potential as a pinch hitter. In 88 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers last year, Frandsen hit .311/.409/.459. He also led the majors with 14 pinch hits.”

    • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      I beat you by a minute above. His splits against Lefties are excellent but those opportunities aren’t there in abundance.

  9. masterfishkeeper - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Fangraphs article on Ryan Zimmerman’s struggles at third:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/ryan-zimmerman-and-trying-to-stick-at-third-base/

    Nothing in it we didn’t already know, however.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Only that some of us were saying this for a few years. What’s changed is the errors have increased and attributed to the shoulder but the shoulder and throwing problems aren’t new. It was the range issues that were alarming and first observed here by one of our long time commentors I think as early as April/May. “Past a diving Zimmerman”

      His overall health could be the bigger concern. The boy can still hit!

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:35 AM

        It was June 9. Game 61.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:38 AM

        Still well before the media as nobody said anything until Davey said something in August or September.

  10. flnatsfan - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Per Ken Rosenthal, Frandsen was at Nats camp this morning. He thinks we have, or will, sign him.

    • Eric - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:33 AM

      Wow…intrigue!

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Well, there’s your new big chested hairy bench guy!

  11. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    If they do/did sign Frandsen, it’s moot, but I’m wondering, if it’s important for Tyler Moore to get regular ABs, and Roark/Jordan to get regular starts, would they not be risking Leon’s development by keeping him on the bench all year?

  12. Danny - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Frandsen has been signed, that was fast. Welcome to D.C.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      That was easy. Bye Leon and Kobernus. All that speculation yesterday on these 2 were a waste.

      Get your Winter coats for Syracuse.

      • Eric - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        If Frandsen does indeed take the last bench slot, I think it will mark the first first accurate prediction I’ve ever made re: a roster move. Low hanging fruit, but still!

        From my post last night at 10:50 p.m.:
        “In the end, I think Frandsen gets it if we are truly looking to acquire him and succeed. I suspect Kobernus is next in line, but I assume the Nats have math wizards calculating whether he or Leon project to the highest number of wins in the greatest number of possible eventualities”

        I’m sure I wasn’t the first or the only one to post that (either here or elsewhere), but I posted it before reading it anywhere else, so it’s exciting for me in an incredibly geeky kind of way. Also, hopefully I’ll never feel compelled to pat myself on the back over something so trival again ;)

      • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:44 AM

        Good job Eric!

      • Theophilus T.S. - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM

        Fransden a waste, too
        .

      • Eric - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:47 AM

        Thanks! I find it strange that it’s so satisfying. Of course, I also have yet to be proved correct.

      • Sonny G 10 - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        +1 :)

  13. Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Ruben Amaro may be the worst GM in sports right now. What were they thinking regarding Frandsen considering how week their IF is? And Galvis has got a cellulitis type infection that may keep him out a week, a month, nobody knows. And if Ryan Howard stinks the place out who do they have to play first? Ruf? They will finish behind the Marlins this year.
    I’m with Theo above in that I really don’t want to see the Nats commit much money, or contract length, in Frandsen, but will agree that another change of scenery may do him some good. I would think if he gets signed Leon goes back down, but who knows?

  14. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    How much? I’m guessing $1.2 and a ride on the “Lerner’s jet” for his kids.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      from Kilgore:
      “The Nationals added the final piece to their opening day bench this morning when they signed veteran infielder Kevin Frandsen to a one-year contract guaranteed to pay at least $900 and worth up $1.2 million with bonuses, according to a person familiar with the situation.”

      So they don’t explicitly mention the jet ride for his kids, but they don’t rule it out, either. I’m counting this one.

  15. raleighnat - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    I like Frandsen. Leon, Walters, Kobernus, Moore, et al need to be playing every day. I really don’t like that they’ve allowed Moore to sit on the bench for 2 years. I’ll bet TyMo has a huge year and either becomes a strong trade chip or in the conversation for replacing LaRoche next year.

    • sjm308 - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      I agree about our young guys playing everyday. My thoughts on Leon were if there were no other moves so I am ok with this. Again, its the 25th man on the bench. It did give us lots to talk about for a night though.

  16. David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Frandsen led the majors in pinch hitting last year. He has a career .289/.343/.435 line against lefties. Can play both corner infield spots and 2B. Assuming we’re not paying much, I like the move.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      What difference does it make how much they are paying him? It’s not like he’s going to get $6MM/2 yrs. How much could it be?

  17. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    is there another move coming to make room for Kevin?

    • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:03 AM

      There has to be a move in the 40 man.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        Any guesses who he will replace?

  18. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Ryan and 3B defense

    Do check the link for ‘nine qualified big leaguers’. you won’t find anything surprising from Nats’ standpoint.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      as we all have suspected, more difficult the play, better chances of him making it.

  19. masterfishkeeper - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    I’d guess Perez, or maybe Solano.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      I think Eury Perez.

  20. David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Jerry Crasnick ‏@jcrasnick 29s
    Kevin Frandsen gets a fully guaranteed major league deal for 900K with the #nationals.

    Can’t complain about that.

    • David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      Jerry Crasnick ‏@jcrasnick 37s
      Frandsen’s agreement with #nationals includes 300K in performance bonuses and an awards package of 400K, says source.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        hard to see him get either, right?

      • David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:23 AM

        I can’t see how he would. But if he did, that means he earned it, so nothing wrong with that

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        True true!

  21. sjm308 - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    Just read a little more about Fransden – he was hit by pitch 11 times last year. Seems like a pretty high number for a guy who did a lot of pinch hitting.

    I hate to lose any of our young guys but this is what happens when a team goes from having nothing but scrubs in their system to having guys who can potentially help another team. My guess is Perez because of our depth in young outfielders. I don’t release Solano because there is a big demand for catchers. Snyder just signed quickly with the Rangers.

    • Steady Eddie - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Taking them off the 40 man doesn’t “lose” them until the Rule 5 draft which is in early December. And I seriously doubt Frandsen will be on it then unless he has a phenomenal year.

      All it means during the regular season is we can’t call them up. Hard to see Petez being a significant call up even in September, and who knows what things will look like by then.

      • David Proctor - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        Wait what? No. Taking them off the 40 man means they have to clear waivers. Any team could claim them. The rule 5 draft is irrelevant in that.

      • Steady Eddie - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        If they’re not on the 40 man and they’re already on a minor league roster (as all the candidates to come off the 40an have already been sent down), what would be the occasion to waive them? I’m not following.

  22. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    “Playing with Philadelphia over the last two years, Frandsen has a combined .280/.333/.389 triple-slash in 488 plate appearances, though each element of that line was significantly better in 2012 than in 2013. (Frandsen’s .366 BABIP in 2012 dropped to .245 last year, which surely explains some of the variance.)”

    from MLBTR

    • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Yes, I saw that earlier. It is hard to take BABIP seriously when so few at bats are involved. he hits lefties and is a decent bench bat so not a bad signing. I just don’t see any 1B backup except Zimmerman who has never played the position before.

  23. sjm308 - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    How quick was Rizzo with this move! Do you guys think they knew this was coming? It’s like they just transitioned right into Fransden without skipping a beat. They keep all of our young guys playing on a regular basis and I believe several will be included in trades in the months to come.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      Part of the front office’s job is to keep an eye on what is happening with other teams’ rosters, and anticipate this kind of stuff.

  24. jd - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    David,

    I agree with you completely. Theo is dead wrong here. Frandsen is a professional pinch hitter, kind of like Reed Johnson or Greg Dobbs. He’s exactly what you need for the 25th spot on the roster.This is not a slot to put a young prospect in because you may not get any at bats for days.

    Tyler Moore has shown that he won’t do well in that role. He needs regular at bats and quite frankly he probably needs a shot with another team.

  25. sjm308 - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    I obviously have lots of time on my hands.

    As bad as I think the Phillies will be, and as poor a GM as I think Amaro is, is anyone just a tad worried that we are getting someone the Phillies did not feel could help them? Or, is Rizzo just thinking that it is better to have a 31 year old veteran who has some comfort level sitting on a bench and waiting for his spot rather then a young guy who needs to play every day? I am thinking as I type and I am guessing its the latter.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Just because he couldn’t help them doesn’t mean he can’t help the Nats.

    • masterfishkeeper - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      sjm308,

      I’m not worried about any transaction the Nats do where Amaro has some involvement. And I’m not worried about Frandsen. He gives the Nats a better right handed pinch hitter than either Moore or Carroll, plus he can play the infield corners and also second base in an emergency.

      Seems like a great fit.

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      sjm308, I’d take Frandsen over Kobernus at this point in time. The more I’ve digested this move the more I like it. Though he plays an adequate first base, I’d take him over Zim at first right now, and all things considered I’d take him over Moore at this point. But in answer to your question, I did think about the last Phillie that I remember that was cut that we picked up. Brad Lidge didn’t work out so good!

  26. jd - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    sjm308,

    You nailed it. People are always complaining about bench players but I always remind them that if they were stars they wouldn’t be bench players. There aren’t many Mc.Louths around who could play every day but are willing to be subs. The Braves got terrific contributions from their subs last year (Laird, Schaffer, Johnson etc). and non of these guys would be much if they were regulars.

  27. Theophilus T.S. - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    My recollection of Fransden is ltd to a few games at 3B. He seemed to be a purely vertical 3B, no horizontal, which is not a recommendation for playing either 2B or SS. His trend line is down; the Phillies desperately need major league players at virtually every position, and they can’t find room for him. My over-and-under for him this year is .212 — and I’ve got the under.

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